Lightstream by Flora Lichfield

Aberdeen illuminated as Spectra festival opens

Spectra, Scotland’s award-winning festival of light, opened last night (Thursday 8 February) in Aberdeen with a spectacular 10th anniversary programme that will light up the city centre until Sunday 11 February.

Inspired by the theme of ‘Connections’, the festival sees some of Aberdeen’s iconic landmarks and architecture transformed by striking free artworks, interactive installations, and eye-catching performances for all ages. Audiences can enjoy an array of works from world-leading companies over the coming days.

A leading light of the North East’s year-round cultural calendar, Spectra is funded by Aberdeen City Council and created in collaboration with production company Live Event Management.

Councillor Martin Greig, Aberdeen City Council’s Culture spokesperson, said: “We are delighted to mark the opening of this year’s Spectra, in what promises to be an impressive and illuminating 10th anniversary programme for the festival.  Over the past decade, Spectra has grown to become one of the cultural highlights in the North East, and we’re grateful to all the artists, support staff, and volunteers without whom the festival wouldn’t be possible.

“We are looking forward to enjoying all of the delights of this spectacular programme, alongside the many thousands of visitors, from people living in Aberdeen to visitors from further afield, over the coming days.”

Festival favourites Heinrich & Palmer return to the city with a spectacular new artwork charting the maritime story of Aberdeen, from tall ships to oil rigs, and a transition towards a renewable future. The large-scale 3D projection is located in the Sculpture Court at Aberdeen Art Gallery. Following the conclusion of the festival the piece will also become a part of the Gallery’s permanent collection.

The Gallery’s Remembrance Hall features Butterfly Dream, a luminously beautiful installation by artist Anne Bennett. A flight of hand-cast and neon-flecked butterflies individually sway above the heads of the audience in the hall, reflecting the fragility and gentle power of ecosystems threatened by human interventions. His Majesty’s Theatre is also lit up by a dazzling new projected artwork by Double Take, with choreographed dancers and performers appearing larger-than-life as they play across the building’s frontage.

Illumaphonium dazzled Spectra audiences at Union Terrace Gardens in 2022, and the team has returned with a new immersive artwork for 2023. Continuum sees Broad Street transformed by an awe-inspiring geometric matrix of mirrored and luminescent sonic monoliths - opening an infinite, mysterious and magical space within and around the audience, encouraging them to create paths and connections with each other and the environment.

Union Terrace Gardens once again hosts a number of artworks during the festival. Affinity by Amigo & Amigo is a colossal light sculpture which invites audiences into a network of light globes inspired by the connections in the human brain. As more people interact with the sculpture they become immersed in a dazzling blend of light and sound, with each connection illuminating the surroundings in colour and brightness.

Meanwhile arts collective Squidsoup have brought two installations to the gardens during Spectra. Submergence sees UTG illuminated by thousands of points of suspended light in a spectacular, immersive experience. While elsewhere Flow utilises dynamic light to weave beautiful patterns through the garden landscape.

Studio Vertigo, the collaborative project of artists Lucy McDonnell and Stephen Newby, have brought two luminous and playful light sculptures to the festival programme. Spin Me A Yarn, an oversized ball of radiant wool with a long trail of yarn that invites audiences to follow its path, appears in Union Terrace Gardens. Meanwhile Our Beating Heart sees a giant mirror ball-style rotating heart bring dancing dapples of light to Marischal Square. 

Edinburgh-based light artist Flora Litchfield’s Lightstream weaves a soundscape of light and voice into the courtyard of Marischal College, with snippets of speech, melody, and oral histories accompanying a flow of laser light above the audience creating a vivid visual journey. Meanwhile the light painting work of photographer David Gilliver and local school pupils is projected into units on Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate.

Throughout the festival site audiences can also enjoy the Northern Lights programme: a selection of ten augmented reality artworks created by some of the brightest emerging artists in the North East, showcasing everything from talking trees to local wildlife, a hag stone-inspired portal, and a dazzling rainbow bridge linking some of the Spectra artworks.

Audiences can also enjoy surprising treats like displays of light projection that dapple across St Nicholas Kirk, and artworks created by local schools and community inspired by the SPECTRA 2024 installations. There’s also live performance, including new work by Aberdeen’s own CityMoves Dance Agency, live stories from Spectra’s resident storyteller Pauline Cordiner, and a Light Performance area in Schoolhill where visitors can be amazed by fire jugglers and live magic. 

For information on festival timings, special Spectra offers go to



Image: Lightstream by Flora Lichfield.

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